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Uses of Psychological Testing: From a Psychologist’s Point of View

Ever think about pursuing psychological testing for yourself or a family member? Recently, our founder Dr. Lauren Pasqua discussed the uses for psychological testing on this podcast from Mosaics of Mercy. Here are some highlights from that discussion, or you can listen to the whole podcast here

What are some common uses for psychological testing?

Testing has lots of wonderful uses. It’s helpful to guide treatment. Often we get referrals from other professionals. Even from therapists who feel stuck, where they’ve tried working with a client and then feel like they’re not making headway or progress and want more clarity on what’s really going on. 

It can also be really helpful in education planning. It’s great for understanding someone’s strengths and weaknesses. We all have things that are easy for us and some things that are hard. It can be really helpful for teachers to be able to understand what is this child’s strengths and how can I harness those strengths to help them be successful in the school environment? 

And finally, for adults that we evaluate, often they come in with an extreme sense of relief to finally have an answer to something that’s been a lifelong challenge. Adults often say ok, now I understand why this has been hard for me.  It’s a lot of “aha” moments of understanding. Sometimes fear of the unknown is one of those barriers of us thinking that knowledge is going to be scary when actually a lot of times it ends up being a relief.

What does the process for testing look like?

For children or teens being tested, we meet with parents for an intake session before we ever meet the child or the teeen. If an adult is requesting testing we would do the interview with an adult, and that starts at 18. Our clinicians do a very comprehensive interview, getting all the background history to really understand and frame what’s going on, trying to look at what things might need to be ruled out, whether there’s potentially sleep or medical or nutrition challenges that we would want to investigate, etc. 

Then we determine what is the goal for the evaluation? What question do we want to have answered by testing? There may be more than one. By doing that, we then frame the kind of evaluation that we will begin doing. 

We typically meet once or twice with school aged kids, teens, and adults. That could be for a two, four or even six hour block depending on their age if they’re able to do that time frame. 

For very young kids, if they’re coming in for an evaluation, I typically break that up into very short sessions. Their attention span is much shorter. So it might take three different days of 45minutes to an hour and a half appointments to get all the information that we need. 

Parents are welcome to wait onsite, but for school aged children, they are not in the room because we find that kids are more attentive and cooperative when parents are not there. For young children under five, the parent would be involved as long as we felt like there were no complications. 

We sit at a table, they answer questions, work with blocks, do different tasks. We also ask parents to complete standardized rating forms of their observations from the home environment. Also from teachers, if they’re available to complete what their observations are of the school environment, we take all that data. 

What happens after you’re done testing?

We take all the information and date, score it, interpret it, and then write a comprehensive report of all the results. 

If the testing is for a child, we have the parents come back in separately again, or meet virtually. If for an adult, we may have a feedback session with the adult to review conclusions and any diagnoses. Together we review all of that information and answer any questions they had and help them figure out what’s next. So that way they have a general overview and outline for them to get started on the next steps.  

We try to give specific referrals. If we know of an individual or a practice that would be well-suited to whatever the concern is, whether it’s with speech and language pathologist or occupational therapists, reading tutors, etc. Sometimes that’s not always a possibility, but we try to be specific when we can. At Connections Child and Family Center we do have a lot of clinicians that provide therapy and they are sometimes available to follow up with any kind of therapeutic intervention if we are the right place for that. 

We try to provide a lot of very specific recommendations for how parents might interact with their child, how they might help them with homework or school, recommendations on how they can handle challenging behaviors. We provide resources like websites, books, and also recommendations for the school to consider if they need to develop a 504 plan or an IEP.

What is the difference between someone getting testing from the school district versus evaluation from an outside psychologist?

As we provide private evaluations as licensed psychologists, we are looking at this through a diagnostic lens for a medical or psychological diagnosis. Whereas school districts are not using that framework. They are typically trying to determine if a child would be eligible for special services based on their performance. For example, if a particular educational classification would make them eligible for something specific to an educational setting, like for example special education services. Things like a learning disability, communication delay, or even potentially emotionally or behaviorally disturbed classifications. 

Still have questions about if seeing a psychologist is right for you? We’ll continue to share information about the cost of psychological testing in our next blog.

Interested in our testing services? Learn more. 

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